Ubiquiti insider says the company downplayed the severity of a major breach

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Internet of things (IoT) manufacturer Ubiquiti allegedly downplayed the severity of a data breach it revealed in January, according to reports.

Security blogger Brian Krebs, a former Washington Post reporter, spoke to a security professional claiming to work for Ubiquiti. The employee said the breach was "catastrophic", and the company downplayed the fallout to minimize the effect on its share price.

Ubiquiti makes IoT equipment, including mesh Wi-Fi systems. In January, it warned customers that intruders accessed systems hosted by a third-party cloud provider. "We are not currently aware of evidence of access to any databases that host user data, but we cannot be certain that user data has not been exposed," Ubiquiti said at the time.

Exposed data might include names, email addresses, and encrypted account passwords, the company added, before encouraging people to change their passwords as a cautionary measure.

The security professional said the breach was far worse than the company let on. “The breach was massive, customer data was at risk, access to customers’ devices deployed in corporations and homes around the world was at risk,” he told Krebs.


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According to Krebs' source, the cloud service provider was Amazon Web Services, and the hackers got full administrative access to servers there after finding a Ubiquiti employee's password. This allegedly allowed them read/write access to Ubiquiti's databases, cryptographic secrets for users' online sessions, and sign keys and source code.

The breach also gave the attackers root access to all of the companies' AWS accounts, including all S3 data buckets, the source continued.

This reportedly enabled the attackers to authenticate remotely to Ubiquiti devices worldwide.

Ubiquiti reportedly found a back door the attackers left in the system, but the attackers tried to blackmail the company for 50 bitcoins to stay quiet. The company refused to engage the attackers, according to Krebs' story.

Instead of suggesting a password change, the company should have forcibly changed them, along with reverting device access permissions, the source said. However, the company's legal department overrode those requests.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.